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Goldlink on curiosity, experimentation, collaborations and his debut album

There are two types of artists today – one that’s slaving away in a studio oblivious to the world around them, crafting tunes that their label says will be the "next big thing". The other is a lot more grounded, short-spoken, even humble in their output, throwing together playlists or home demos that – if history is anything to go by – will catapult them to international stardom through staying to true to their own style and uniqueness.

Washington rapper Goldlink is the latter and achieved success through internet buzz along with a little-known artist called Chance The Rapper. Both became known for their musical output rather than their general online presence, and put record labels on notice around the world for their relevance. This, Goldlink believes, hasn't lost its touch, but is definitely a quality in today's music scene that gives artists more of a choice about how they distribute and market their own releases.
 
"A label is where it's at, but I can't speak for everybody," says Goldlink. "Every artist isn't the same, so I can't say this is more appealing than the other. But if you find the right label who genuinely cares about your creativity and your art then it's important.
 
“There are a lot of things that people can do for you that you would find hard to do on your own – that's what people don't talk about when they talk about being independent. If you're independent, you have to make sure you have everything aligned, and the right people around you for your success, as well as having your shit together."
 
And if there's one person that has their shit together it's this DC MC, who recently released his debut studio album, At What Cost to rave reviews from critics and fans alike. While tight-lipped on the collaborations that eventuated on his debut – Kaytranada, Steve Lacy and Washington hip hop colleague Wale – Goldlink claims that the response has been overwhelming to say the least, and he's ecstatic that people are listening to the album as a whole rather than the tracks that gained buzz prior to its release.
 
"It's been a blessing, it seems like everyone's proud of me and what I've done," he says. "It's not like everyone's talking about only their favourite tracks, but the album as a whole and that makes the experience incredible. I'm really happy with the way this project has turned out, and the people behind me who helped me with this project were incredible. I'd collaborate with all of them again in a heartbeat."
 
Goldlink's artistry and his ability to adapt to the current trend of electronic music, and mould that into his own sound comes from the ‘80s DC funk and go-go music background that Goldlink labels "future bounce." It welcomes the intricate flows and wordplay of hardcore hip hop yet appreciates that summer festival vibe of a track with a dance-worthy beat.
 
Goldlink claims this type of music is the main influence his tracks encompass. "I never really had any favourite artists growing up but what influenced me was go-go music, because that was the cool thing to do around the city," he says. "Go-go was really the thing, rather than live bands or regular hip hop, and the musicians that experimented with go go added their own DC flavour to it, and that's what I was fascinated with.
 
"Hip hop is my shit, I've always loved it. I always wished that all hip hop songs had more musical elements overall so it could gain more respect at the time. That's really where my fascination comes with it – I didn't really know it was electronic.
 
“Curiosity is another thing as well, just experimenting and saying 'Hey, this is cool, let's try this instead of the regular hip hop standard.’ ”
 
That experimentation and dedication brought Goldlink all the way to Australia last year for his first ever appearance at FOMO Festival, where he says the warm reaction he received was one of the best he had ever got.
 
"First of all, I love Australia," he says. "I love it like I love DC, I love being there. I haven't seen a lot, but I want to make sure when I come back I do something very special, because I appreciate the people there as much as they appreciate me. As soon as they call me and ask me to come back, I'm there."
 
By Benjamin Potter

Goldlink's album At What Cost is out via RCA records.